Indo-Pakistani Wars, three wars fought between India and Pakistan after the two nations gained independence from Britain in 1947. The first and second wars (1947-1949; 1965) were fought over the territory of Jammu and Kashmīr, in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. The status of the territory remains a matter of dispute between India and Pakistan. The third war (1971) involved Indian military intervention in a civil war in Pakistan. This brief and decisive intervention resulted in the independence of Pakistan’s eastern province, East Pakistan, as the nation of Bangladesh.
The roots of Indo-Pakistani discord can be traced to the process of British colonial withdrawal from the Indian subcontinent. In 1947 the British government decided to partition the British Indian empire into the independent states of India and Pakistan. This decision followed the failure of the two nationalist parties of British India, the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress, to resolve their differences in negotiations preceding independence. The Muslim League advocated the creation of a separate state called Pakistan to serve as the homeland for Muslims of South Asia. The Congress, on the other hand, officially supported building a single country based on secular (nonreligious) nationalism. That single country would have been predominantly Hindu, however, because Hindus greatly outnumbered Muslims in British India.
These two competing ideologies of state-building collided over the status of Jammu and Kashmīr, which had been one of 562 so-called princely states in the British Indian empire. These states were nominally independent as long as they recognized the paramountcy (authority) of the British crown. Under this colonial doctrine, the maharajas (monarchs) of these states exercised all powers except those pertaining to defense, foreign affairs, and communications. With the end of colonial rule, the maharajas were informed by the last British viceroy to India, Lord Louis Mountbatten, that they had to choose between joining either India or Pakistan. Mountbatten ruled out the prospect of independence. Furthermore, he decreed that predominantly Muslim princely states that bordered Pakistan would become part of that nation.
Jammu and Kashmīr therefore posed an interesting dilemma. It had a predominantly Muslim population, a Hindu ruler, and its borders abutted both India and Pakistan. The Pakistani leadership laid claim to the princely state on grounds that fellow Muslims in a neighboring state had to be incorporated into Pakistan to ensure its completeness. India, on the other hand, was interested in incorporating the territory into the Indian Union to demonstrate that a predominantly Muslim state could thrive within the context of a secular India. However, the monarch of Jammu and Kashmīr, Maharaja Hari Singh, had hopes of maintaining his state’s independence and delayed accession to either India or Pakistan, even after British rule formally ended in mid-August 1947.
|III||THE FIRST INDO-PAKISTANI WAR|
|A||Events Before the War|
In October 1947 a rebellion broke out amid the Pashtun tribes in the western areas of Jammu and Kashmīr. The Muslim Pashtuns had long resented the Hindu maharaja’s rule, and in the wake of the British departure they moved to exploit the power vacuum and challenge the maharaja’s authority. Pakistani irregular forces, comprising members of the Pakistani army disguised as local tribesmen, entered the fray to support the Pashtun rebels. Within a week the rebels and their allies attacked and seized the border town of Muzzafarābād and then moved toward Srīnagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmīr.
Hari Singh, now in a state of panic for fear Srīnagar would fall to the rebels, appealed to Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru for military assistance. Nehru set two preconditions for the provision of assistance: first, the maharaja would have to accede Jammu and Kashmīr to India, and second, the accession would have to receive the approval of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, leader of the secular Jammu and Kashmīr National Conference, the largest political party in the state. In late October, satisfied these preconditions had been met, Nehru accepted the maharaja’s Instrument of Accession that gave India powers of defense, foreign affairs, and communications in Jammu and Kashmīr. Pakistan immediately disputed the validity of the maharaja’s accession, claiming he had signed under duress.
|B||Major Events During the War|
On October 27 Indian troops were airlifted into Srīnagar to stop the Pakistan-aided tribal advance. By this time the rebel forces, calling themselves Azad Kashmīr (Free Kashmīr), had captured a third of the state’s territory. Over the next several months the Indian army fought a number of pitched battles with the rebel forces. In the spring of 1948, Indian forces mounted a major offensive designed to regain much of the lost territory. This Indian offensive led to the direct involvement of the regular (uniformed) Pakistani army. The fighting escalated during the course of the year, but neither side made significant territorial gains.
On the advice of Mountbatten, Nehru had referred the dispute to the United Nations Security Council in January 1948. The council subsequently passed a series of resolutions seeking an end to the conflict. The resolutions called upon Pakistan to end its aggression in Jammu and Kashmīr and enjoined India to hold a plebiscite (vote) to determine the wishes of the Kashmīris on the final disposition of their state. Both sides eventually agreed to these terms, and the war ended on January 1, 1949, with the declaration of a UN-sponsored cease-fire. By then about 1,500 soldiers and rebels had died in battle.
|C||Events After the War|
Because the territorial dispute remained unresolved, Jammu and Kashmīr was partitioned along a line that reflected troop deployments at the time of the cease-fire. The de facto border was known as the Cease-Fire Line (CFL) until 1972, when it was renamed the Line of Control (LOC).
Since the partition, about one-third of the former princely state has been under Pakistani control. This area includes a small autonomous region—known by Pakistanis as Azad Kashmīr and by Indians as Pakistani-occupied Kashmīr—as well as a larger section directly administered by Pakistan, known as the Northern Areas. The remaining two-thirds of the historic region, including the southern province of Jammu, has been under Indian control. This area is administered as the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmīr. (In historical references, the name of Jammu and Kashmīr, commonly shortened to Kashmīr, refers to the entire area of the former princely state.) In 1954 the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmīr state formally voted to join the state into the Indian Union. In India’s view, the vote ratified the maharaja’s 1947 accession and made the state an integral part of India.
After the war, the United Nations sought to reach an accord that would be acceptable to both parties and finally resolve the status of the disputed territory. However, these efforts proved futile as neither India nor Pakistan appeared willing to make significant concessions.
|IV||THE SECOND INDO-PAKISTANI WAR|
In 1965 India and Pakistan went to war over Jammu and Kashmīr a second time. Pakistan, dissatisfied with both multilateral and bilateral negotiations, again sought to wrest Jammu and Kashmīr from India through the use of force. This effort failed as India held its ground, and the war ended in a stalemate after almost two months of armed conflict. Although the second war over the territory was shorter than the first, the increased firepower of the two nations resulted in a more deadly war, with a total of about 6,800 battle casualties.
|A||Events Before the War|
A number of factors precipitated the second conflict over Jammu and Kashmīr. In the wake of a border war between India and China in 1962, efforts by the United States and Britain to settle the territorial dispute had, like the UN mediation process, met with little success. Furthermore, India significantly expanded its defense spending after suffering losses in the border war against China. At a regional level, India had started to integrate Jammu and Kashmīr state into the rest of the country, such as bringing it under the jurisdiction of the Indian Supreme Court. All of these factors—the failure of diplomatic efforts, the growth of India’s military, and India’s efforts at integration—provoked Pakistani misgivings about the erosion of its claim to Kashmīr.
When rioting broke out in Srīnagar in December 1963 following the theft of a holy relic from the Hazratbal mosque, the Pakistani leadership construed the anti-Indian tone of the disturbances as a sign of support for the merger of Kashmīr with Pakistan. Accordingly, Pakistani president Muhammad Ayub Khan and his foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, decided to try once again to wrest the territory from India.
|B||Major Events During the War|
Pakistani army personnel disguised as local Kashmīris began to infiltrate into the Kashmīr Valley in early August 1965. Once they entered the valley, the infiltrators intended to foment a rebellion among Kashmīri Muslims. The strategy, known as Operation Gibraltar, went awry from the very outset, however. The Kashmīris did not respond as expected; instead, they turned the infiltrators over to the local authorities. Accordingly, the Indian army moved to secure the border and on August 15 scored a major victory after a prolonged artillery barrage. Attacks and counterattacks followed in quick succession.
On September 1 the Pakistanis opened a new front in the southern sector, catching Indian forces unprepared. Indian forces responded with air strikes, leading to Pakistani retaliation. On September 5 the Pakistanis made a significant thrust into Indian territory that threatened to cut off Jammu and Kashmīr state from the rest of India. The following day Indian troops crossed the international border in the Pakistani province of Punjab near its capital of Lahore. Faced with this threat to Lahore, the Pakistanis launched a counterattack at Khem Karan in the neighboring Indian state of Punjab. This attack, spearheaded by the Pakistani First Armored Division, was anticipated by the Indian forces and failed, with Pakistani forces suffering major losses.
|C||Events After the War|
By mid-September the war had reached a stalemate, and the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire. The Indian government accepted the cease-fire resolution on September 21, as did the Pakistani government the following day. The two parties subsequently attended Soviet-hosted peace talks in Toshkent (Tashkent), the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (present-day Uzbekistan). On January 10 the two sides signed the Toshkent Agreement and reestablished the CFL as the de facto border in Jammu and Kashmīr.
|V||THE THIRD INDO-PAKISTANI WAR|
Unlike the first and second Indo-Pakistani wars, the third war, fought in 1971, did not involve the status of Kashmīr. Instead, it began as a Pakistani civil war in which East Pakistan, the eastern province of Pakistan, sought to secede from the country. This conflict escalated into a 14-day war between India and Pakistan after India’s military intervened to support the secession of East Pakistan. Although even shorter than the previous wars, the third war resulted in 11,500 battle deaths—the highest of all three conflicts. It also resulted in a truncated Pakistan, as East Pakistan became the sovereign nation of Bangladesh.
|A||Events Before the War|
The 1947 partition of the British Indian empire had created a Pakistan comprised of two “wings”—West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) and East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan; now Bangladesh)—that were separated by 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of Indian territory. In the wake of Pakistan’s first free and fair election in December 1970, the leaders of the western and eastern wings failed to reach an understanding about power sharing. In March 1971, after talks failed to break the deadlock, the Pakistani government launched a military crackdown in East Pakistan. During what was called Operation Searchlight, large numbers of the Bengali intelligentsia in East Pakistan were killed and many prominent Bengali leaders were thrown in jail. In response, the Awami League leadership of East Pakistan declared the province’s independence on March 26. As the crackdown escalated into a full-blown and brutal civil war over the next two months, some 10 million Bengalis fled East Pakistan and took refuge in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal.
The Indian leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi quickly decided that it was cheaper to resort to war against Pakistan than to absorb millions of refugees into India’s already bloated population. Highly antagonistic relations between India and Pakistan also contributed to India’s decision to intervene in Pakistan’s civil war. Gandhi and her advisers fashioned a strategy to support the creation of a separate state for ethnic Bengalis. This strategy involved support for the indigenous Bengali resistance movement, led by the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Force). To this end, India’s military intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, helped to organize, train, and arm these insurgents. The Mukti Bahini managed to harass the regular Pakistani army units stationed in East Pakistan and helped to create conducive conditions for a full-scale Indian military intervention in early December.
|B||Major Events During the War|
On December 3, 1971, the third Indo-Pakistani war formally began with a Pakistani air attack on a number of air bases in northwestern India. The Indian air force responded the next day by striking at several West Pakistani air bases. Along with the airborne attack, the Pakistani army simultaneously launched a ground operation in Kashmīr and in the Punjab region, thereby opening a western front. In the western sector a number of pitched battles took place, particularly in Azad Kashmīr near Pūnch (Poonch) and Chhamb. Other major engagements took place farther to the south in the Punjab region at Derā Nānak and Anūpgarh. Even farther south, an invading Pakistani tank column was bombed by the Indian air force, which carried out as many as 4,000 sorties during the conflict.
The use of air power was more limited in East Pakistan. The real thrust into the province was made by three Indian army divisions that launched a five-pronged attack on Dhaka, the provincial capital, and received the surrender of Pakistani forces there on December 16. The following day, India declared a unilateral cease-fire, and Pakistani leader General Muhammad Yahya Khan called on his forces to reciprocate. East Pakistan immediately seceded from Pakistan and became the sovereign nation of Bangladesh.
|C||Events After the War|
In 1972 Pakistani president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (formerly the foreign minister) met with Indian prime minister Gandhi at the hill resort town of Simla in northern India to discuss a postwar settlement. Although the third Indo-Pakistani war had not been triggered by events in Kashmīr, the unresolved issues surrounding that disputed state weighed heavily in the settlement talks. The two leaders negotiated a settlement that recognized the de facto border in Jammu and Kashmīr as the Line of Control (LOC). Both sides agreed to abstain from the use of force to settle the Kashmīr dispute, and India agreed to return some 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war.
|VI||KASHMĪR: THE UNRESOLVED DISPUTE|
Indo-Pakistani relations continued to be strained after the Simla Agreement, for it did not address the final status of Kashmīr. Armed hostilities continued to erupt in the territory along the LOC, making any political resolution to the dispute highly unlikely. The vast majority of India’s political establishment has indicated a willingness to settle the dispute along the LOC and formally cede the Pakistani-controlled portion of the state to Pakistan. However, Pakistan has refused to accept the status quo in Kashmīr as long as Muslim-majority areas, such as the fertile Kashmīr Valley, are under Indian administration. Meanwhile, the proliferation of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan has dramatically increased the stakes of their long-standing territorial dispute.
Both India and Pakistan acknowledge that the Simla Agreement requires them to settle their bilateral disputes without resorting to the use of force. However, neither one has been willing or able to uphold this provision, and they disagree over who is to blame for continuing violence in the territory. In addition, Indian and Pakistani officials interpret other important aspects of the Simla Agreement quite differently. Indian decision-makers believe that the agreement supersedes all former UN resolutions and requires strictly bilateral negotiations to bring a resolution to the dispute. The Pakistani side argues that the agreement leaves open the possibility of multilateral negotiations. The varying interpretations of this document aside, the two parties remain fundamentally at odds over the terms of any resolution to the dispute.
|A||The Kashmīr Insurgency|
Since 1989 the dispute over Kashmīr has taken on a new dimension due to the emergence of a separatist insurgency among Muslims in the Indian-controlled portion of the territory. Described as an ethnoreligious (ethnic and religious) insurgency, it initially involved mostly Muslim Kashmīris. Many Pakistanis, Afghans, and Arabs subsequently joined the insurgency, increasing its militancy. Pakistani support has helped to sustain the insurgency materially and prevent its suppression by Indian security forces.
Fighting between the insurgents and Indian security forces has resulted in more casualties than all three Indo-Pakistani wars combined. Although estimates vary, most dispassionate estimates suggest that about 40,000 individuals have lost their lives since the onset of the insurgency. Both the rebels and the Indian security forces are known to have committed substantial human rights violations.
Politically, the principal demand of the insurgency is that India hold a plebiscite to determine the status of the territory. This demand rests on the assumption that the Muslim-majority areas of the state would prevail, leading to secession from the Indian Union. Some of the insurgents support merger with Pakistan, while others want a unified, independent Kashmīr state. The most militant members of the insurgency, whose numbers have swelled in recent years, create mayhem and terror without any clear political agenda.
Meanwhile, India steadfastly refuses to hold a plebiscite on the premise that Jammu and Kashmīr state is an integral part of the Indian Union, as provided for in the Indian constitution. Elections to the state’s legislative assembly have consistently brought to power moderate candidates who support this view.
The Jammu and Kashmīr Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen are the two principal insurgent groups of indigenous Kashmīri origins. The JKLF renounced violence in the mid-1980s. However, it has refused to enter the political process under the terms of the Indian constitution. In addition to the insurgent groups, a number of separatist organizations have banded together under the aegis of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). The APHC has also refused to enter the political process even though its members are not involved in the insurgency.
Since the late 1990s, the situation in Kashmīr has been especially tense. In May 1998 India and Pakistan each exploded nuclear devices during weapons tests. These demonstrations of nuclear capabilities were clearly intended to intimidate the other side. Afterwards, both sides came under intense international pressure to resolve the Kashmīr dispute, lest it escalate into a nuclear war. In an attempt to allay international concerns, Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accepted the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to visit Pakistan. Accordingly, Vajpayee traveled to the Pakistani city of Lahore in February 1999 to inaugurate a bus service linking it with the nearby Indian city of Amritsar. This meeting at Lahore was seen as an initial attempt to usher in a more cordial Indo-Pakistani relationship.
In early May, however, units of the Pakistani Northern Light Infantry, a paramilitary unit with troops recruited mostly from the Pakistan-administered Northern Areas, made incursions across the LOC at Dras and Kargil. Although initially caught by surprise, the Indian army responded with vigor and managed to dislodge the Pakistani intruders. Sharif, in an attempt to save face, sought and obtained the intercession of the United States from President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s agreement to intercede rested on the restoration of the sanctity of the LOC. Under Indian military and American diplomatic pressure, Sharif agreed to Clinton’s terms and the conflict was brought to a close.
In October 1999 General Pervez Musharraf, the chief of staff of the Pakistani army, overthrew Sharif’s democratically elected but increasingly authoritarian regime. Pakistan’s relations with India, which had been strained as a consequence of the Kargil conflict, worsened under Musharraf. Indian leaders accused Musharraf of continuing to materially assist the Kashmīri insurgents. Musharraf denied these allegations, insisting that his regime was only involved in providing moral, political, and diplomatic support to the insurgents.
The most dramatic deterioration in relations came after December 13, 2001, when members of two Pakistan-based insurgent groups, the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked the Indian national parliament in Delhi. Prompt action on the part of local police and paramilitary forces contained the ferocity of the attack and limited the number of deaths. In the aftermath of this attack, India recalled its ambassador from Pakistan, severed road and rail links, and dramatically increased its military deployments along the Indo-Pakistani border and in Jammu and Kashmīr state.
Relations between the two countries continued to worsen through much of 2002 as additional terrorist attacks took place on Indian soil and India continued to exert growing military pressure on Pakistan. In Kashmīr, artillery fire routinely erupted along the LOC. Both countries increased troop deployments along their shared border, amassing a total of about 1 million troops. Fearing an outbreak of war between two nuclear-armed nations, the United States and a number of other major powers intervened to defuse the increasing tensions. Relations improved significantly in May 2003, when the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic ties. In late November India accepted Pakistan’s offer of a cease-fire along their shared border in Kashmīr, ending artillery fire there for the first time in 14 years. Nevertheless, the status of Jammu and Kashmīr remains one of the most volatile territorial disputes in the world.